Getting the Bergkamp role correct on Football Manager is probably one of the hardest things you can attempt, especially when you’re going for a specific era like I am with the Invincibles. During the Invincible season Bergkamp was a player coming towards the end of his career and the way he played football had been changing since the end of the 1999-00 season. After this he was a player who became even more intelligent and was less mobile. I’m not saying he declined as a footballer, far from it. He just became more intelligent footballer and started to score less goals, bar the 2001-2002 season. His role in the Arsenal side evolved year after year and he started to contribute more in my opinion but this came at the cost of goals scored. But it also played a part in the players around him scoring more goals as Bergkamp was the star the team revolved around. We will take a look at Bergkamp and his seasons by numbers at a later date.
But first, does the above present an issue for me? I’m trying to replicate the role of an older person who was coming to the end of his career and trying to do this, with a very talented player at the start of his career. I could look for an older player but then I won’t be able shape him with the long-term vision in mind. Plus by the time I fill all the roles I need to find players for, his career would just be about finished. I’m wanting to create something with a youthful side who can possibly play five or more seasons together before the side breaks up. Some of you might have seen me mention in the past few articles how I think my current striker fulfilling this role is scoring too many goals and how I need to change this. But the real question is, do I need to change things or am I just being highly critical and being unfair, comparing someone at the start of their career to someone at the end of theirs?!
When Bergkamp joined Arsenal he was already 26 years old. The player I bought to fulfill this role on Football Manager is only 19 years old. Bergkamp at 19 years old scored 16 goals in 34 appearances for Ajax and was his highest scoring season he had at that time. The previous two seasons saw him score 8 goals in 52 appearances for Ajax. I guess it could be argued that none of this really matters and doesn’t need to be included but I think it does. The reason being, that when Bergkamp was younger he was a goalscorer and this continued in his early years at Arsenal. So does it really matter if my striker Romero is too much of a goal threat currently? I guess it does but only if he isn’t doing the things we expect him to do fulfilling the Bergkamp role. But if he’s doing all those things and scoring goals then it’s an added bonus surely. After all it’s the overall style of play I’m aiming for. And who knows, when Romero is 34-year-old he might have slowed down on the goal scoring front too like Bergkamp did.
Dennis Bergkamp was a true Dutch master, he wasn’t a prolific scorer but he scored goals of beauty. Like the one below.
He wasn’t a player blessed with pace but he was that intelligent that he didn’t need it. He could score or set up goals for others and he made both look incredibly easy. He also brought the best out in the players he was surrounded by, especially Freddie Ljungberg with whom he seemingly had a telepathic connection with. People often remember his link up play with Thierry Henry but if you watch any game back that both Bergkamp and Ljungberg played, then you’d know what I was talking about. He always knew were Ljungberg would be before it happened.
I remember reading this question from an interview with him for FourFourTwo quite some time ago and it’s something that has always stuck with me;
You were a bit of an assist machine at Arsenal: are there any that stick out? How about that pass to Freddie Ljungberg against Juventus at Highbury, when you beat two players and dinked it over the top?
That was my favourite, though it was not like me to have the ball at my feet all that time. I was waiting for Freddie to make his run. At that time he was always coming from somewhere and I could find him. I remember a lot of assists with Ashley Cole as well. I’d see him out of the corner of my eye. He’d begin to move. If he stops, it’s a silly pass, but he’d keep running, because he knew what I was going to do and I’d put it just outside the far post, inside the box, and he would just come across, with pace. You can’t defend that. There hasn’t been a right-winger born who’ll track back that far! You can compare it to a quarterback: you want to see and play the perfect pass. The pleasure of scoring goals is known, but for me the pleasure of the assist came close. It’s like solving a puzzle. I always had a picture in my head of how things would look two or three seconds later. I could calculate it. There’s a tremendous pleasure in doing something that someone else couldn’t see.
Before we jump into the analysis though we need to look at Bergkamp in numbers. This info is taken from Arsenal.com and the original article can be found here;
As you can see he scored a lot of goals. I’d not class him as prolific but his scoring ratio in the early years of his Arsenal career was solid. On average Bergkamp played 38.5 games a season for Arsenal (never fewer than 30) and scored 10.9 goals. He started 345 of his 423 games, and appeared in six different competitions. Bergkamp scored 69 (58 per cent) of his 120 goals at home, 50 away and one on neutral ground – but his actual strike rates for home and away games were very similar, claiming one in every 3.46 games on the road, and one every 3.39 at home.
The vast majority (73) of Bergkamp’s 87 Premier League goals came via his right boot (84 per cent) and he scored three headers. He netted 15 times from outside the area in the league (17 per cent of the total). Bergkamp scored 13 braces and one unforgettable hat-trick – away to Leicester City in 1997/98.
Bergkamp averaged an assist once every 3.35 games, and his most prolific season in terms of assists was 1998/99 (13).
Although it took him eight games to find the net for Arsenal, Bergkamp gave his first assist in just his second game – a 2-0 win over Everton at Goodison Park on August 23, 1995. He played a superb through-ball for Ian Wright to run onto and score late in the match. Overall Bergkamp scored or assisted once every 122 minutes during his Premier League career on average.
I think this quote from Louis John McCaffrey sums Bergkamp up;
Dennis Bergkamp was a key figure in the evolution of both Arsenal and the English Premier League. His technical ability and style of play made him one of the most enjoyable players to watch during the 90’s and 00’s. The contribution of Bergkamp seems to have been underestimated, his overall standing in World football undervalued, yet this was a player who his fellow professionals recognised as a true genius of the game and certainly one of the greatest ever Number 10’s.
Romero has been at the club for two seasons now and has done great. Before we look at what he offers and to see if he is fulfilling the Bergkamp role as I hope, let’s look at his seasons so far in numbers;
28 goals in 36 appearances is an excellent goal return.
Both seasons are actually quite similar, especially when you factor in season two included more games due to the Champion’s League. The defensive contribution improved in the second year.
One thing I’d like to pick up on though is assists. One assist in every three games is a good return and compared to real life is higher than the actual stats. You might have the odd player like Ozil this season get a ton of assist but those players are the exception to the rule and not the rule. I think a lot of people get caught up with assists and think real life numbers are much higher than they actually are.
Like anything to do with stats, in isolation they can be misleading and don’t really tell us anything. However based on the two seasons Maximiliano Romero has had with the club so far and them being very similar, then we know his contribution to the team seems to be roughly the same for them both. In terms of a numbers comparison based on goals then he and Bergkamp are quite similar at the same age.
The development of Romero has been interesting and he’s showing just how good he can be based on his attribute development. However I’ve had some setbacks with his player preferred moves and he has failed to learn three of the four I tried to teach him. The only one he has picked up so far is the ‘plays short simple passes’ PPM.
These are his attributes currently in the game and his current training schedule and individual focus.
That’s his current coach report. His competitiveness that is mentioned in the cons list isn’t a bad trait though and is something I believe Bergkamp also had. While Bergkamp was a technically gifted player he could also be very dirty at times and didn’t follow the rules as much as people would have you believe. Sometimes this part of his game was glossed over because people only remember the sublime stuff.
Let’s take a look at what he offers us during a game.
These stats are taken from a 3-0 home win against Norwich. In this particular game, he was passed the ball 57 times during the game. The above is a screenshot of those passes received and show the areas he was attracting the ball in. They’re in deep positions and the more advanced ones are the types of areas you’d be expecting. Initially this looks really promising and shows the players are looking to use him as some kind of passing target to aim for.
This is just one example of him dropping off the front to help be a deep passing option. He then receives the ball from Che Adams who is playing the Ljungberg role.
Once he drops off the front and receives the ball he then becomes the focal point of the entire side. Everything that happens next is down to him, it’s like he is the heartbeat of the side. There are always lots of options for the pass should he choose to pass the ball. Or he can drive forward with the ball if he thinks this is the correct option at the time.
The other passes received are all showing a similar story too.
His passes completed can be seen above and show they’re more central focused and have various different passing lengths. During the invincibles era he was more central and his passing reflected this. There was also a slight bias towards the right for Ljungberg. One thing I am concerned about though is his low pass completion rate. In this game he has had 52 passes and only completed 34 of them. That’s quite a low rate and something that definitely needs to be worked on and improved.
Romero had 5 key passes in this game.
This is one of the key passes he does. He gets the ball deep again and begins to drive forward. Then his strike partner begins to make the run and Romero knows this before it happens and plays the ball into path he knows the player will run into. When this happens he is through on goal and totally unmarked.
Another example and this one is very Arsenal like. He just slots the ball between the centreback and the fullback and Adams playing the Ljungberg role is straight through on goal. Sadly he misses the chance but Romero showed great vision and control to slot the ball into this kind of area.
If you go to around 37 seconds of that video, does it look similar?!
The player seems to be fulfilling the passing option role well and is attracting the ball. From a passing standpoint though, his distribution does need some work. His passing isn’t dreadful and is above 75% but I think this coming season I need to work on this more and try to pinpoint what actions we can take to get it higher.
In this particular game he had 4 shots and scored two goals with all 4 shots being on target. Now Romero has been quite the talisman for my Sheffield United side so far, but he doesn’t shoot as often as you’d imagine. He tends to have around 4-6 shots per game on average. In that regard he is quite clinical with his goal return ratio. Much better than Bergkamp but like mentioned at the very start, I could just be over thinking things and there is no reason to try to cut down on the goals scored if he is doing the things I’d expect, which he seems to be. I know this is only one game that we are looking at here and in isolation any kind of comparison or using it to form an opinion about something can be misleading. But looking at other games, it’s the same kind of things I’m seeing and the player stats are also backing this up.
So is Romero being Bergkamp? In some ways he is yes but I feel there is still a lot more work to go. I can’t change that much just yet though as it could be a player issue and the players around him aren’t quite up to Romero’s standard just yet. Hopefully that will change now because any transfers into the club now have to be an improvement and be the type of player we need. I now have a settled squad and a squad that is capable of playing at a high level. The final pieces are now bringing the correct players into the club and being able to keep hold of them.